St. John Virgin Islands: Estate Seiban

Volunteers for the Virgin Islands Friends of the National Park have cleared the extensive ruins on the old Seiban Estate. These ruins including the only baobob tree on St. John have been mostly covered by bush for well over half a century.

Yesterday the volunteers cleared around the baobob tree from where there’s a great view of Fish Bay to the south. The photos you see on this blog entry were taken yesterday, the afternoon after the clearing of the estate.

There are two ways to get to Estate Seiban, the L’Esperance Road and the Great Seiban.

The L’Esperance Road begins on Centerline Road about a quarter-mile east of the Cathrineberg Road where the foundation of an old house can be seen on the south side of Centerline. Park here and go down the trail until you come to the small trail going south and down towards Seiban.

The Great Seiban trailhead begins in Fish Bay. Going east on the Fish Bay Road, take the first left after crossing the bridge over the Fish Bay Gut, which is Cocoloba Trail, at the first intersection bear right, staying on the Cocoloba Trail Road. Take the first left and head up the hill to the first switchback. The trail begins here.

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St. John USVI: The Defile

Reef Bay Valley

Until the end of the in the eighteenth century, people couldn’t travel all the way from east to west on what was then called Konge Vey (King’s Road) and which is now known as Centerline Rd or Route 10. The road was divided in two by a deep gorge at the saddle of the Maho Bay Valley on the north and the Reef Bay Valley on the south. This gorge, called the defile, was so deep, its sides so steep and the bottom so rugged that it was impassable by donkey cart or horseback.

When travelers on horseback or wagon going between the Coral Bay side of St. John and the Cruz Bay side came to the defile, they had two options:

Option 1: There were corrals for horses on both sides of the defile. They could leave their horses in the corral on one side, cross the defile on foot and arrange to take another horse to continue east.

Option 2: They could take the Maria Hope Road down the Maho Bay Valley to the north and continue east on the north shore.

Around the year 1780, the defile was filled in by the owner of the Old Works Estate, Peter Wood, and the two sides of the island were connected by one road for the first time.

Until then the main port and business hub of St. John was Coral Bay. There was where one entered and cleared customs and from where most vessels came to pick up and deliver cargo.

The land bridge over the defile changed the dynamics of St. John as now deliveries from east of the defile could be sent to Cruz Bay overland and as Cruz Bay was so much closer to St. Thomas, it became the favored port and the main town on St. John

When Centerline Road was constructed along the mountain ridge, hundreds of tons of fill were brought in to make the road passable by motor vehicle. In the process, the Old Works Estate and the uppermost section of the Maria Hope Road were completely covered over with the exception of the horsemill wall the horsemill wall, which can be seen as soon as you descend the stairs to the Reef Bay Trail.

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St. John USVI: St. John Film Society Presents:

The St. John Film Society’s last presentation, “Africa Unite,” at Sputnik in Coral Bay was a resounding success. People came from all over, Coral Bay, Cruz Bay and even St. Thomas. It was SRO (Standing Room Only) all chairs filled, some sat on the floor or on top of tables, others stood inside and other outside looking in through the open louvers. It was free, it was fun, it was cool and it was THE place to be. It looks like this group will establish themselves on St. John and help fulfill the islands thirst for good entertainment. I say, “Good T’ing!!!”

Here’s their Press Release:

!!! Free Movie !!!

7:00 PM

St John Film Society Presents:

spirit-marathon-150x150SPIRIT OF THE MARATHON

A documentary by Mark Johnathan Harris, Jon Dunham and Gwendolen Twist (102 min.) The first ever non-fiction feature film to capture the drama and essence of the famed 26.2 mile running event. As six unique stories unfold, each runner prepares for and ultimately faces the challenge of the Chicago Marathon. More than a sports movie, Spirit of the Marathon is an inspirational journey of perseverance and personal triumph, a spectacle that will be embraced by runners and non-runners alike.

Also – 8 Tuff Miles Pre-show Rally!!!

Mo Chabuz from Skinny Legs will present a short preview of his 8 Tuff Miles film-in-progress.
Jeremy Zuber, five time winner of the 8 Tuff Miles will share some words of inspiration.
Sherri Theberge, director of Healing Together, will introduce St. John’s new cancer support group and invite the community to run for the cause.
Peter Alter, 8 Tuff Miles race director, will answer questions after the film.

Come early for dinner! Stay after to discuss the film!
For more info contact Rea: (340) 715-9899

Who they are:

St John Film Society

St. John Film Society is comprised of a small group of local volunteers. Our mission is to inspire appreciation for the history, culture and oceanic environment of our US Virgin Islands by establishing a free monthly film series open to and for the benefit of our community. We will present high quality fiction and non-fiction independent films that celebrate the human spirit with a focus on the Caribbean. Our intent is to increase cross-cultural awareness of the many communities throughout the Virgin Islands and beyond. Each month we will invite a local Virgin Island filmmaker, video installation artist or visual artist to present their work prior to the feature film presentation. Our goal is to develop public awareness of the talented individuals in our own community, by creating an environment in which filmmakers / artists introduce and discuss their work and their artistic process with audiences of all ages. We invite film enthusiasts to come and enjoy the films and help plan monthly programs. We also invite filmmakers / artists to submit their work for consideration. Email your suggestions to or submit preview DVD’s to:
St. John Film Society
5000 Estate Enighed PMB 98
St. John, USVI 00830

Future Goals:

The ultimate goal of the Film Society is to establish an annual Independent Film Festival on St John. We hope to bring attention to the rich cultural diversity and unique voice of the Virgin Islands as we share our stories through film. While our monthly screenings are free to the public, we welcome donations to help us achieve these goals. Founding members:

Andrea E. Leland, artist and filmmaker, has produced and directed a number of award winning documentaries focusing on Caribbean and Latin American cultures. She is the co-founder of REELTIME, a highly successful monthly film series in the Chicago area, now in its 10th year. ( She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Rea McQueen Roberts is a devoted film and music enthusiast. She has worked in the public relations and music industries, with emphasis on special event planning and fundraising. She has been involved with several of St John’s annual events, both as a participant and as a volunteer.

Martha Hills is a writer and an avid film enthusiast.

Coming Up

March 3rd:  The Developing World
Feature Presentation: Life and Debt – by Stephanie Black  A feature-length documentary that explores the complexity of international lending and free trade in the developing world.

April 7th: A Celebration of Garifuna Culture
Opening Film: Play, Jankunú Play – A short film by Oliver N. Greene Jr., about the Garifuna Wanaragua Ritual of Belize, as expressed through music, dance, and costume. Feature Presentation: The Garifuna Journey by local filmmaker and film society founder, Andrea Leland

Our film series will continue at Sputnik on the first Tuesday of every month. All are encouraged to bring a folding chair and arrive early for better seating. Until further notice, Cruz Bay screenings will be held on special occasions. Future Cruz Bay screenings to be announced. The calendar will be updated regularly on

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St. John USVI: Power Boyd and a Fishing Story

Those passing by on the South Shore Road heading towards town may have noticed a newly cleared hillside and a newly painted wall on their left just before reaching the top of Jacob’s Ladder.

It reads” “Estate Bethany, Power Boyd.

Power Boyd
Entrance to Power Boyd

From talking to people, even many of those living in the Power Boyd neighborhood, the words, “Power Boyd” signify a place, a neighborhood. It is that, but I remember Power Boyd, the man and thinking about him brings back memories and nostalgia for St. John in days gone by.

I met Power Boyd in 1970, when I was fishing with John Gibney. Although John knew so much about St. John and St. John culture, the commercial aspect of fishing, that is, actually selling the fish, was almost as new to him as it was to me.

As steady, reliable and fairly well paying transportation, public works and construction jobs had become more and more available with the rise of the tourist industry on St. John, less and less St. Johnians dedicated themselves to fishing as a full time occupation. They still fished, but for themselves, family and friends. By the time John and I began our fishing adventure, there weren’t any fisherman selling their catch to the general public.

After pulling our pots (fish traps), and collecting the fish, we would return to the dock at Cruz Bay where we were warmly welcomed.

Our fish were sold alive, the job of cleaning and preparation fell to the customer. All fish, regardless of species or size, sold for the same price, fifty cents a pound.

At first we kept the catch in a live well and offered our customers the opportunity of choosing their fish, first come, first served.

This did not work out so well, as we soon found out that the choicest fish were sold right away, but sales and enthusiasm diminished as the pickings got slimmer and slimmer. Not only were we not able to sell our entire catch, but we were left with more of the smallest and lesser desirable fish than we could eat ourselves, the remainder of which we would give away.

We soon learned that on St. Thomas, as well as on St. John in the past, fish were strapped using tyre palm leaves and the straps were weighed and sold as is. The straps were mixed, some big, some small, some very desirable, some less so.

This worked out fairly well, but as time passed other options presented themselves. An example was a  fish called Old Wife (Queen Triggerfish), a species now rather rare, but at the time plentiful. Old Wife had skin and not scales, and many people did not like the work involved, especially those lacking that particular skill, in skinning the Old Wife for preparation. Not only that, as there was a sizable community of Seventh Day Adventists on the island, and as the Old testament prescribed, fish with out scales were prohibited, straps contained even one Old Wife could not be sold to a Seventh Day Adventist.

Along came Eric Christian, who had one of the few restaurants on the island, Eric’s Hilltop, now the St. John Legislature Building. His lunch special was Old Wife soup. (When you boil Old Wife, the skin comes off easily.)

So, after that fortuitous meeting, all Old Wife were separated out, kept in the live well and taken over to Mr. Eric’s after the general sales at the dock were finished.

The next development was the discovery of cultural differences in fish preferences. Until the 1950s, the population of St. John was most homogeneous, St. Johnians, born and bred on the island. With the big construction projects, Caneel Bay, Cinnamon Campground and public works endeavors, people from other islands, mostly from the British Virgins, Dominica, St. Lucia, St.Kitts and Nevis came to St. John to work. By the time I arrived in 1969 many of them had established themselves and their families on St. John. They brought their own distinct culture with them and this included a preference for fish that was not shared by St. Johnians.

This brings us to Power Boyd.

Power Boyd was an early arrival from Dominica. He bought land in Bethany and sold plots and rented apartments to other Dominicans and established a Little Dominica in what was then called the Power Boyd Plantation. It was suggested to us by one of the residents that we contact Power Boyd about selling fish there.

John and I did just that. Arriving at the property, we were directed to the big house where Power Boyd lived with his wife and children. A man went inside to talk to Mr. Boyd and we were then taken inside the house for a meeting. We explained the situation to and he advised us to come back with certain fish, which he listed as being very popular with the people there.

John and I  agreed, and the next time we pulled the pots, we not only separated the Old Wife for Mr. Eric, but we also took out the fish for the Dominicans.

After selling the strapped fish on the dock, straps now consisting of all the most popular St. John preferred fish, and bringing the Old Wife to Mr. Eric, we put the “down islanders” fish in a box and brought them to Power Boyd. We were again taken to his house and invited in. After exchanging pleasentries, he came out with us to view the catch.

“Ah, very good,” he said, and he chose several fish for himself and his family. He then announced to the dozen or so people waiting to buy fish, “now to each as they see fit.”

The visits to Power Boyd Plantation became a routine part of our fishing days. We made friend with many of the people there and even learned a little Patois.

St. John is a far different place today, for better or worse, but those “good old days” will days remain in a special place in my heart when I think about the island I now call home, beautiful St. John, Virgin islands.

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St. John Virgin Islands Life: Doing Time for Island Time

Judge in St. Thomas sends prosecutor to jail – for being late.
Anyone who has spent anytime in the Caribbean knows the meaning of  “island time.” We could extend the concept, if not the phrase, to the countries of Central and South America.

For those who don’t know what I mean, island time is time treated relatively rather than absolutely.

“I’ll be there at 3:00 PM,” for example, might mean that I’ll be there at 3:00, but more likely it will mean that I’ll be there some time later than  3:00.

In some cultures, in Switzerland for example, time is treated seriously and respectfully. In Switzerland, everything and everyone is on time. Everyone knows exactly what time it is. In Switzerland, every last pocket watch, wristwatch and cuckoo clock reads the same as all the others. In Switzerland, everything runs on time. Buses, trains and trolleys arrive on time and leave on time. Count on it.

For example, the conductor on any given Swiss train hangs his head out the door of the railroad car, and with his eyes glued to one of the big clocks that are just about everywhere in railway stations, he waits, transfixed before this monument to orderliness and just as the second hand hits the “12,” he signals the engineer, and the train lurches forward, on time – to the second.

Now contrast this to the Virgin Islands where I’ll venture to guess that no two watches or clocks in the territory are exactly synchronized one with the other, and no one, citizens, government officials, TV and radio stations, internet sites, even atomic clocks exposed to the tropical trade winds, no one, nobody, has the exact right time. In the Virgin Islands time is treated leisurely, approximately. This applies to dates and meetings both business and personal. It’s approximate. It’s more or less, but with later being way more common than earlier.

So it was, that upon reading an article in the Caribbean Net News, I was shocked to learn that a Superior Court Judge in St. Thomas, threw a prosecutor in jail … for being late!!!

The prosecutor was scheduled to be in Court at 4 pm on Monday for a murder case. He showed up late and the judge had him jailed. For further information read the article in Caribbean Net News

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St. John Virgin Islands: Press Release from David Reed and TuTu Much

David and Mary
David and Mary

For the 11th consecutive year, David Reed will return to beautiful St. John to perform his reknown and eclectic brand of fingerpickin’ guitar-vocal groove music.  Whether performing solo, or with his duo TuTu Much, Reed displays solid musicianship, crafting heartfelt songs (he was finalist in the Newport Folk Festival’s 2004 song competition) and creating interesting interpretations of well-known favorites that drift seamlessly through blues, folk, rock, reggae and calypso styles.  Beginning as a founding member of New England’s premier jam band, Max Creek, Reed has honed considerable chops and a comfortable presence that has led him to venues in the Caribbean, Switzerland, Italy, England and Bulgaria where he has shared festival stages with world-class artists like Third World, David Bromberg, Commander Cody and Jesse Winchester.  Reed and his music were profiled in the April ’06 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine and blues musician Rory Block once wrote of him, “David Reed is an extremely competent, polished and exciting musician.”  His third solo album “Asleep At The Keel” garners positive reviews and features one of Reed’s short stories that is set on St. John.

Making music on the island since 1999, David Reed and TuTu Much certainly are not strangers to St. John and are pleased to consider many of its residents and venues their  ‘friends’.  They have performed at the Cinnamon and Maho Bay camps, Aqua Bistro, Island Blues, Skinny Legs and The Banana Deck.  Again this year, Eddie and Guy at Miss Lucy’s Restaurant in Friis Bay, St. John are the exclusive hosts for Reed and TuTu Much, featuring Mary Knysh on vocals, flutes, steel pan and mandolin.  TuTu Much performs from March 3-14, and David Reed presents his solo show, American Idle, March 17-19.  All performances are on the patio of Miss Lucy’s Restaurant, Tuesday through Saturday evenings from 6-9PM.  (Reservations are strongly encouraged: 340.693.5244)

For more information visit their website at

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St. John USVI: Trunk Bay Sunset Fire Dance Revisited

Yesterday afternoon the fire dancers Brenda Sylvia, Chris Bailey and Corey White, returned to Trunk Bay for another video shoot. This time we were more prepared. I stood back and videoed on a wide angle using a tripod. I had the benefit of Bill Steltzer’s expertise and help in faring a whole lot better than the big zero I ended up with on Monday. Meanwhile Bill hand held the camera and shot close ups.

Brenda Sylvia, Chris Bailey & Corey White
Brenda Sylvia, Chris Bailey & Corey White

The seas were calm and the afternoon light at trunk bay, as usual, was beautiful. The performers wore their black and white traditional costumes as opposed to the island look they had on Monday.

Next week, the plan is to get together with Bill and edit the videos from the two cameras.

The following links will take you to the my unedited videos. I present them here for those interested.

Monday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (1) Chris & Corey
Monday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (2) (Chris)

Wednesday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (1)
Wednesday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (2)
Wednesday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (3)
Wednesday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (4)
Wednesday Trunk Bay Fire Dance Video (5)

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St. John Virgin Islands: Times Tough

Collections St. John Style
Collections St. John USVI Style

When times are tough and the money is flowing, there is invariably an increase in people not getting paid. This is especially true in the construction industry here as fly by night contractors and sometimes even more established ones sometimes pass on their bad cash flow problems to their employees.

Phrases like “we didn’t get paid by the owner, so we can’t pay you,” or “here’s half your pay we’ll make it up next week” are getting to be heard more often as time goes on and the St. John economy continues to slow down.

It’s all too common here on St. John. I don’t know the specifics of this incident, but it appears that someone thinks that someone owes them money and has utilized a unique method of getting paid. Its not been all that effective though, as I’ve been noticing the sign for quite some time now periodically being displayed to passersby and other times mssing, apparently the work of the homeowner who takes it down only to have it placed up again.

Meanwhile the unofficial January St. John US Virgin Islands financial stats are in. According to my excellent sources, small business owners,  villa managers, restaurateurs, hotel managers, gym members, friends, acquaintances, bar flies, gossipers and hitch hikers, the money scene on the island is down between 20 and 40 percent across the board. My book sales for January, probably a good overall indicator falls within that range at 33% less gross sales than January of last year.

The advice from those in the know is, tighten the belt, sit on the deck sip a cocktail and don’t spend any money until things get better or at least as little as possible. And I’ll add to that, slow down, stay cool, enjoy St. John for what it really has to offer, like going to the beach, snorkeling, hiking and socializing with that extended family that is found here in Love City, St. John US Virgin Islands. Remember, its only money.

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St. John Virgin Islands: Fire Dancers

St. John now has resident fire dancers, Brenda Sylvia, the Silver Raven from “Flights of Fire” and Chris Bailey and Corey White, from “C-Squared”

Brenda is from Washington DC and Chris and Corey are from upstate New York.

To get in touch with them call Brenda at 626 1542 or Chris at 626 1520. E-mail is

On Monday I went to Trunk Bay to shoot a video of their performance. Luck was with me, expert videographer, Bill Steltzer, showed up and he took the videos. It was lucky for true, because the ones I shot didn’t come out.

Brenda Sylvia
Brenda Sylvia



Bill Shooting Video of Chris and Corey
Bill Shooting Video of Chris and Corey



Fire Dance

Fire Circle
See Videos of Chris fire dancing at Trunk Bay.
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St. John Virgin Islands: VI Whale Watch

From EAST (Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John)

ST. THOMAS – Few people are fortunate enough to ever see a humpback whale, but each year the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John offers the community a unique opportunity to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

EAST’s annual whale watches will be held on February 15 and 22th and March 8th and 22rd.

“We had a great sighting on the North Western end of St. Thomas last year,” said EAST President Carla Joseph. “Nothing is more exciting than seeing an animal of this size. It is something I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience.”

Humpback whales migrate through Virgin Islands waters each winter, where they mate and give birth. The local migration usually peaks in February.

The whale watches will be held on a large catamaran, “Jolly Mon”.

“If they are out there, we will find them,” Joseph said.

Eco-guides will be on board to educate participants about the whales as well as sea birds and other marine life.

“It should be a very fun day,” Joseph said. “We usually stop for lunch and a swim or snorkel at an offshore cay. It is a chance to learn a lot more about the Virgin Islands.”

The boat departs at 8:30 a.m. from the National Park Dock in Red Hook. Whale watchers should bring lunch, sun screen, bathing suits and binoculars.

Joseph urged those interested to call for tickets now as the whale watches usually sell out in advance.

Tickets are $55 for EAST members and $65 for non-members and can be purchased on St. Thomas from Dockside Book Store in Havensight and East End Secretarial Services in Red Hook. On St. John, tickets can be purchased from Connections of St. John.

For details call 774-1837 or 344-9075.

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